While sitting by the ocean on one of our many hot summer days, I observed how timeless is the pursuit of pleasure at the Jersey shore.
Children enjoy playing in the exact same manner that I did as a child. Toddlers alternately run towards and away from the waves that crash at their feet, while laughing and shrieking. Equipped with brightly colored pails and shovels, their older brothers and sisters spend hours happily digging in the wet sand, carting endless buckets of water back and forth from the water’s edge to create their castles and other architectural splendors. Those buckets and shovels, which were metal when I was a child; are now made of plastic…but provide just as much fun. Seagulls, sand crabs, and ice cream men are pursued unmercifully by this age group.
The pre-teens are ever so slightly more nonchalant as they go about their shore pursuits. The boys pretend to ignore the blossoming young girls who gaze longingly at them as they ride their surfboards out towards the beckoning whitecaps. Perhaps realizing that they may have to bide their time for awhile, these pubescent young lades revert back to being little children again—shrieking and giggling as they jump the waves. Later, when the boys return from their surfing, or if they pass a lifeguard stand, the girls may regret that their hair got all wet.
Like the seagulls, the teenagers strut their stuff in a slightly more conspicuous fashion. Teenaged girls, more practiced at the art of unspoken seduction, apply sunscreen or adjust their bikini straps in a casual yet semi-suggestive manner while appearing not to notice the appreciative glances of the opposite sex.
This effort is not entirely lost on the guys, who although still embroiled in endless surfing and games of volleyball, cast overt glances at the better endowed females. When at last they tire of their games, some preening and grooming usually precedes the casual flop on the sand next to the young lady of their choice. There are, after all, hormones to be dealt with and evening plans to be made.
Hardly anyone under 21 is reading, but this seems to be a favorite pastime of both young and not-so-young adults. Those who are tending young children, of course, don’t have time to do anything else. Regardless of their age, women are usually talking while either walking or sitting on their beach chairs, while men are busy playing something—it really doesn’t matter what. They are all still little boys at the beach.
You may not see a lot of them, but the older folks are perhaps the sweetest sight of all. If they are at the beach at all, it’s because they really love it. I know because I am becoming one of them. They take it all in—remembering the faraway times when they played with children of their own at the beach, and perhaps wistfully remembering when their bodies were capable of doing so much more. And is there a more beautiful sight than that of a grandparent happily playing with a grandchild in the waves or the sand or sharing an ice cream treat?
And when it’s really hot, what could be a more timeless pleasure than to drag your chair to the water’s edge, allowing the cool water to wash over your legs, as your chair tilts crazily in the shifting mud? And can anyone forget the delicious taste of an ice cold fudgie-wudgie? The ice cream man is still the most popular person on the beach.
Our daily lives have changed a great deal over the years. Family picnics and drives have given way to more air-conditioned and high tech activities. Computers, television, cell phones, Ipods and blackberries compete for our leisure time. Yet, cell phones and the occasional Kindle are about the only modern-day intrusions that have made it to the beach.
Other than that, it’s exactly the way we all remember it. And how many other things can you say that about?